Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Be Just, Merciful, Humble, And be Happy

 
A TESTIMONY
by
SHANNON THOMAS CASEBEER

DEDICATION


To my beloved ancestors and the faith and fortitude that drove them to pursue their dreams, this innocuous little parable is affectionately dedicated.


Isaiah 55:12 "For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; The Mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands."


My name is Shannon Thomas Casebeer. I was born in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Northern California and raised on a little piece of paradise called Reservoir Hill.  Idyllic childhoods are mighty few and mighty far between, and I didn’t deserve one, but some of us just get lucky. Near the top of Reservoir Hill, on the banks of historic South Fork ditch and overlooking the snow-capped Sierras to the north, the coastal range to the west, the Sacramento valley to the south, and Miller’s pear orchard to the east, were the homes of my mom’s parents and her dad’s mother, Meda Eliza Camp Daniels.


Meda’s Husband, my great grandpa, Asa Wilder Daniels, arrived in Placerville in 1888, purchased 40 acres on Reservoir Hill, operated a freight service, and served for some time as Justice of The Peace. Her father, Asa Steven Camp, arrived in Hangtown with his father, Clark, in 1849. Together they filed several claims in order to try their hand at prospecting, and then, after accompanying his father safely home, Asa returned to Placerville in 1854. 


I have many vivid memories of walking the tree lined lane from my home on Mosquito Road, up the hill past my great grandma’s home and on to the home of my grandma and granddad Daniels. Passing Great Grandma’s window I was occasionally waved down and invited inside to warm myself by her wood range and snack on the candied figs which she’d dried in the sun before steaming and coating with sugar. 


My favorite room was the kitchen.  Even now I can close my eyes and picture it in every detail just as it looked those long years ago. I can see the old wood range and hear the clanking of its lids as great Grandma painstakingly brought the range to life. I remember how the nickel handles and black cast iron stove-top shone in the flickering light of the coal oil lamp as she polished them with a wax covered bread wrapper. I smell the sulfur and see the flash and flutter of the wooden match as she lit the crumpled newspaper. I hear the cast-iron clanking of the dampers being open and the crackling of the fire as Grandma carefully fed kindling to the growing flame. I remember peeking in through the open dampers at the glowing embers on the grate, watching their light dancing on the wall, and gazing up at the warming oven in expectation of the golden brown treasures that would soon be steaming inside. On a few occasions I recall sitting in her lap in the old rocking chair. 


The wood range would crackle and pop pleasantly and great Grandma would carefully unfold and read aloud from the same little muslin book that had mesmerized my granddad as a child. Time with Granddad was always a special treat and rarely did a summer pass without Granddad seeing to it that the entire family enjoyed a series of camping trips high in the Sierras, where Granddad had camped with his family all his life. 


All variety of kith and kin accompanied us on these woodland adventures, including Granddad’s brother and sister and of course his mom, who camped with us until age 93.  As a little girl, Great Grandma’s mom, Laura Ellen Oldfield Camp, had crossed the plains by covered wagon, making the trek from Wisconsin to old Hangtown back in 1854, when the rut riddled boulevard west was often impassable, and Native Americans still thrived on vast herds of migrating buffalo. Camping was in our blood.


We camped much as the family had for generations. Granddad had built red wooden sideboards for his 1941 Chevy, so the little pickup was well prepared to house all the essentials of camping, and with the addition of a canvas cover provided snug sleeping quarters at night.  I remember well crawling from my own sleeping bag at first light, in order to join my grandparents in the cozy bed of the old Chevy. I remember Granddad’s beaming smile and mass of disheveled gray hair as he peeked from under the covers. I recall how snug and warm it felt crawling under that down comforter after kicking off my moccasins on the tailgate, the feel and smell of the canvas cover rustling in the mountain air, and gazing at stars through silhouetted pines.


Once the fire was lit, Sis and I would dress quickly and join the rest of the family, warming our backsides at a stone lined campfire and anticipating the smell of coffee brewing in the graniteware coffee pot, and the debilitating aroma of pancakes and bacon sizzling on Great Grandma’s griddle.  Stellar Blue Jays called from the canopy of old growth pines. The welcome sun cascaded down through the lush boughs of evergreen. Off in the distance rainbow trout snatched Mayflies from the cobalt blue surface of pristine mountain lake. And my mind’s eye envisioned my granddad’s granddad crossing the country by covered wagon long ago when Indians roamed these hills. 


Such were the days of my childhood, when life seemed simple, summer was perennial, and childlike faith assured tomorrows joys.  Treasure your memories, keep them fresh and never take them for granted.  Even our memories can fade with the harsh glare of time. 


FAITH


As a little boy, back in the 1950s, I became very ill.  My mom and dad loaded me into the old Chevy and took me to the doctor.  A spinal tap determined that I had Poliomyelitis. Following the diagnosis, I spent several terrifying weeks confined to a hospital ward at Kaiser Hospital in Vallejo, California.  There I saw other children struggling with the crippling disease.  Some were in braces. Some were confined to iron lungs. Some never walked again.  Some never left the facility.  Some died.



One night, all alone in my room and scared half to death, I remembered one of my favorite books back home.  The title of the little children’s book was “Jesus, A Boy’s Friend”. I began praying as only a terrified child can pray. I prayed and cried until I finally fell asleep.  Several days later the doctor had good news for my family. My symptoms were gone. They were free to take me home.


As I left the hospital, hand in hand with Mom and Dad that day, I began a path that has led me to this day. Some days my faith is just as strong as the day I left that hospital. Other days, not so much, but from that day to this I’ve set out each day to walk the path I’m given, in the light I’m given. On my very best days, I share that light with others.  Each of us walks a different path, revealed in a different light. As a result, we each have different perspectives, different convictions, and varying points of view. We need to show each other a little compassion and cut each other some slack.


I was only four, but I remember well the other kids in the ward with me in the hospital. I remember incubators, braces, buckets of ice, and being haunted for years by the horrific thought of spending my entire life in an iron lung.  I remember missing Mom and Dad and praying like I'd never prayed before, from that moment to this day, for anyone who suffers such a fate. I remember when I first got sick, my folks bundling me up in the old Chevy for the two mile trip to town.  I remember Doctor’s Bliss and Elliot and the spinal tap that verified the prognosis.  I remember being terrified and held down, and screaming “Daddy, Daddy!” at the top of my lungs, and the sound of a scuffle outside my door as they tried to restrain my father. I remember tugging my cowboy boots on and walking out of that hospital with Mom and Dad. And I remember being very, very thankful. I remember sitting in the bright sunshine back home on Reservoir Hill, and pondering the whole experience over and over.  And I remember all through school befriending other boys and girls, who walked funny or talked funny, or for whatever reason, didn’t quite fit in. And it warms my heart to this very day when I see folks accepted for who they are.

MATHEW 11:28-30 NIV

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I did not begin my walk with Christ with any real idea of where I was going.  I just set out to follow, day by day.  I’m not suggesting the entire walk’s been easy.  I've been beaten down, and beaten down. I’ve failed and sinned repeatedly. This old robe of flesh snags on this and snags on that, and hinders my very best efforts. I’d have been defeated long ago if not for a revelation: I’m not responsible for each day’s results. The yoke is easy and the burden is light. I’m simply called to faithfully follow Christ, day by day, step by step, in the light each new day brings, and to share that light, should others choose to follow.

The Bible tells us if we would have God’s boundless affection, there’s but one condition. We must love God without restraint and each other without exception. I realize that loving some of us is a tall order, but considering the reward, I suspect it’s worth the effort. And, just between you and me, I don’t believe God expects us to be 100% successful.  He only requires that we try. When hearts are hardened and devotion strained, the empathy and compassion of those who care must be sufficiently resolute to compensate for those who do not. 

Each and every day, each and every one of us, regardless of our circumstances, has a choice. We can squander our time fingering old welts, second guessing past decisions, and tormenting ourselves over the poor choices of others; or we can embrace a new day brimming with opportunities for doing justly, loving mercy, and building foundations for a bright new tomorrow. Time is precious. Choose wisely.

HERITAGE

The greatest thing about being an American is having roots from all over the world and living in a society that recognizes, promotes, and celebrates that diversity. My ancestors arrived in the Colonies prior to the Revolutionary War. My Casebeer ancestor, Johan Kasebier, arrived from Germany in 1724, and my Camp and Daniels ancestors arrived in the Colonies from England in the 1630s.  My great grandfather, Henry Stancil, was French Canadian, and Scotch Irish roots run deep in my family tree. Each branch of the family sent sons to war to provide the freedoms we Americans enjoy today. Other family members, such as my great grandfather, Calvin Casebeer, fought to preserve the Union during the Civil War, and my father, Leo Casebeer served on the Battleship New Jersey during World War II. 

Freedom is every heart’s desire and every just government’s goal, but prior to our Constitution, liberty was a mighty illusive concept. My ancestors risked all they had in their quests for freedom, because in case after case, their homelands had very little appetite for religious freedoms.  In far too many cases, Kings, Queens, and powerful religious institutions, dictated religious beliefs. Bigotry, intolerance, and bondage were generally the result, and the freedom we enjoy today was little more than a dream.

Our Constitution and America’s other historical documents demonstrate very clearly that America’s collective conscience, as reflected by our chosen leaders, requires constant scrutiny and surveillance.  Even in a democracy of, by, and for the people, justice and equality are only as perfect as the conscience of that people.  Even America’s grand and glorious democracy reflects not only our goodness but also our greed.  Freedom is not a privilege to be taken lightly.  Freedom is a right and a responsibility, a perishable torch to be diligently tended and faithfully passed along.  Freedom burns within our hearts, ignited by the founding fathers, and it falls to us to keep that flame alive. America’s most trusted and time-honored institutions are only as righteous as the hearts of our citizens, our most godly leaders, only as just as the collective conscience of their constituents; and the most telling measure of a nation’s heart is the unity and compassion of its people.

If you feel compelled to share your faith, by all means do so, but even in the gospels, we’re not called to force others to conform to our view of morality. We’re called to go out as sheep among wolves. We’re called to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. We’re called to share the good news and leave conviction to the Holy Spirit.

PEACE

When those about us languish in a sullen sea of doubt, and the whole world seems in anguish, and hope, nowhere about; its then faith burns most brightly with conviction’s brilliant glow, while fears retreat contritely, vanquished by the confidence we know. For our hope is not in inner strength, nor conceit at honors won. Our valor not doomed to fail at length, our victory not contingent on what we’ve done. Our joy is not reliant on some gallantry we’ve shown. We’ve no need to be compliant to some distant impropriety we’ve known. For our strength is in humility, not some valiant course we’ve trod, but in simply doing justly, loving mercy, serving God.

TRAVEL

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” So says Mark Twain, and as usual, I believe Sam has it right.

Through the years, I’ve been blessed to travel a bit across this magnificent planet. I was born and raised in historic old Hangtown, known as Placerville, California, and raised my family in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. I’ve visited castles in Ireland and Scotland, hoisted a pint of Guinness in Belfast, and enjoyed steaming coffee from the porch of Green Gables on windswept Prince Edward Island. I’ve been piped ashore by bagpipes on the docks of Halifax, Nova Scotia, sailed down the Saint Lawrence to Quebec, and broke out in Goosebumps while swimming in the cobalt blue waters of Lake Tahoe. I’ve explored the Yucatan, marveling at the crystal clarity of Xel-ha Lagoon. I’ve explored the ancient Mayan ruins at Tulum, and I’ve found inspiration on the coast of Maine, as seen from the pristine summit of Mt. Desert Island.  I’ve traveled Canada by rail, sipping wine and relaxing as spectacular fall foliage sped by my window, and I’ve ridden a crowded bus the full length of Jamaica, and lounged on the beach at Saint Thomas in the sundrenched Virgin Islands.  I’ve been blessed to see a thousand sights all around this pale, blue orb, and my travels have served to press this one point home. Its future depends on the stewardship of those who heed God’s call to dress and keep it.

WALKING IN THE LIGHT

My favorite scripture, as you probably know by now, is Micah 6:8. I strive each day to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God, and I respect the rights of others to walk with theirs.  My ancestors arrived in this country prior to the Revolutionary War.  They sought freedom and worked diligently in its cause.

I’m blessed to be a citizen of a country that cherishes and upholds the principles of liberty and justice for all.  I am not called as a follower of Christ to force others to conform to my view of morality. I’m called to walk the path I’m given in the light I’m given, and to share that light with any who chose to share it. If you glimpse in any of my humble and imperfect efforts the reflection of a merciful and compassionate Savior and follow Christ as a result, I’m gratified.  If you do not, that is my shortcoming not yours.

CHRISTIAN OUTREACH

So, as a person of faith, how does one promote Christ’s life changing message with all due humility?  In my humble opinion, the obedient pursuit of this commission requires not the belligerent derision and slander of the faith of others, but a gracious and amenable demonstration of the effectiveness of our own. Anything less is incompatible with God’s Word.

It won’t surprise anyone to hear that there are sinners in the world today. What is surprising and undoubtedly hurtful to Christ, is the fact that more than two thousand years after Christ gave His life for them; there are still those who believe they’re serving Christ by hating sinners. Do you hate anyone today?  Let it go. Hate bigotry, ignorance, racism, and intolerance.  These are our enemies. Those who are eaten up and infected by these things are merely victims. Hatred only inflames conditions which mercy and compassion can relieve. We must not be enemies. Our enemy is not flesh and blood. Fear, want, and ignorance are our enemies. Bigotry, intolerance, and racism are our enemies. They must be overcome not with clenched fists and raised voices, but with the open hand of compassion, and comforting whispers.

PRAYER

Would you like to have your prayers answered and grow closer to God? I’ve been following Christ, with varying degrees of success, for a long time. During that time, I’ve sent up all variety of prayers. In my experience, if you pray to receive a blessing, the results may be discouraging, but if you pray for opportunities to be a blessing, you’re rarely disappointed.

Many people pride themselves on their feelings of compassion. While compassion is admirable, feelings by themselves accomplish little.  Unless compassion is demonstrated, it’s only a feeling and doesn’t serve Christ at all. As followers of Christ, we’re called to be demonstratively compassionate, expressing our feelings through service and acts of mercy.  

THE AMERICAN DREAM

It’s a dream that began in the minds and hearts of America’s Founding Fathers. It’s a vision, a hope, a goal, and a passion which began to materialize when our forefathers first set foot on the shores of this remarkable country. It’s alive and well today in the hearts of many.

It’s a belief that people of every conceivable faith, origin, and ethnicity can join together and find peace, acceptance, common purpose, and strength through that diversity, and in doing so, form a government of, by, and for a people, unified by their diverse faiths and their mutual pursuit of liberty and justice for all. It’s dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Many have dedicated their lives to this proposition. It’s a proposition that a person could proudly die for. It’s the dream of a society where each and every individual has the right and the responsibility to pursue and participate in policies and practices which assure fair and equitable treatment of all their fellow citizens.

It’s a vision of, not just a shining city on a hill, but an entire country where devoted citizens appreciate their own liberty, uphold and defend the liberty of others, and dedicate themselves to the great and noble task before us, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.  

Due to all variety of fears, discontent, and disenfranchisement, our country today is a tinderbox just waiting for a spark. Don’t be that spark.  Don’t be one more tear in our nation’s fraying fabric. Be one more stitch. Be the thread that binds a tattered seam. Be the hope, faith, and charity that down through the ages has celebrated freedom and advanced American ideals. Honor our veterans. Be worthy of their sacrifice. Cherish your liberty, and keep America strong.

The American ideals of Liberty and Justice are forged in the fires of scripture and tempered by the ages. Since its inception, our Republic has emerged slowly but steadily from the world’s history of bigotry, racism, and intolerance, toward a more just, merciful, and compassionate society. At this moment in time, our country is more polarized than at any time since our Civil War, but this is one moment in time. We survived our Civil War and we’ll survive this.

Martin Luther king Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Despite the greed and corruption that will always be a threat to the greater good and the common man, more than ever in the history of the world, our society as a whole seeks enlightenment and justice. And today more than ever, those things are attainable if we rein in our petty, partisan differences and work together for truth, justice, and the American way.

TEMPTATION

Observe the close of another day in any community, large or small, and the scene is always the same.  Dusk falls, dogs bark, lights blink on as folks settle in for the evening, and soon after sunset the townspeople begin their time-honored nocturnal activities. Each town has one or more gathering spots which, once evening falls, become hangouts for folks pursuing fellowship, camaraderie, or romance.  Those who aren’t frequenting these establishments are cruising the streets in pursuit of those who are.  Human nature is a worrisome thing.  It’s a treacherous world for a gregarious species, teaming with prey and predators. We spend the first two or three decades of our youth pursuing romance and conquest, and then we find ourselves married and expected to change.  Well I can tell you from experience, that twenty years of constant conditioning and eons of tenacious extinct are not easily overcome. Take the word of an old pilgrim who’s fought a good fight. Our robes of flesh will slowly wear out and eventually drop away, but for as long as we live we’re going to face temptation.  Married or single, Christian or not, the brightest blessing and darkest curse of our irrepressible species is our voracious appetite for companionship and affection.

MARRIAGE

As I pen this little parable, my wife and I have been blessed with 35 years as man and wife, and almost every year has brought new challenges. We’ve faced health challenges, financial challenges, and experienced all the trials and tribulations inherent in maintaining a monogamous, lifelong relationship. When you take two complicated people and merge them into one, it’s not unusual to have a few loose ends. Our marriage has survived for 35 years because each of us considers our marriage a commitment to Christ.

Years ago I was a member of a little country church. On numerous occasions our preacher would descend from the pulpit and announce; “Now I’m going to talk to you like I love you.”  That’s what I intend to do now.   I’m not familiar with your circumstances. I can’t tell you what to do. I can only offer my observations. Each of us begins our lives with high hopes and lofty expectations. In order to fulfill those expectations, many of us marry.  Fully aware that many marriages fail, we press onward, confident that our relationship will beat the odds and flourish.  Years pass, life happens; hardships bring disillusionment and despair.  Our marriages become tedious and we struggle with the prospect of living the rest of our lives and never again enjoying the kind of romantic and mutually fulfilling relationship we once had. Eventually we despair and are tempted by other options.  Don’t do it.  You’ll never replace those early years of a mutually fulfilling marriage. 

Relationships with those with whom we share a history can’t be reproduced or replaced. Don’t try.  During difficult times, immerse yourself in memories of better days.  Devote yourself to mutual goals. Deepen your appreciation of shared experience and achievements.  Celebrate family and its many rewards. Reconcile yourself to the fact that, while you can’t go back, happiness can be found by moving forward and recommitting yourself to the life you’ve built together.  Your best hope for contentment in the autumn of your life is the celebration of seasons that you’ve shared. Shower your spouse with unconditional love and make certain everyday you’re worthy of theirs.

SEASONS

Once again the dogwoods are the early harbingers of approaching autumn.  Soon the sassafras and sumac will contribute their pastel hues of orange and scarlet. Once again we anticipate the taste of ripe persimmons, the appearance of the ubiquitous pumpkin, the plaintive calls of southbound geese, and all the traditional trappings of harvest. Despite all these pleasant expectations, the close of summer and approach of fall invariably result in a feeling of melancholy for me. 

As a young man I tended to envision time as a vast, unlimited resource. Time it seemed was an inexhaustible sea.  Now in the autumn of my life each hour is increasingly precious, and I thirst for each minute as it drips away from an alarmingly finite pool.  It seems now a natural tendency to weigh the substantial pile of spent autumns which I find behind me, against the increasingly dwindling weight of those I expect to find ahead. Still, fall is traditionally and unquestionably a time of thanksgiving and celebration.  We take stock of a year rapidly waning; brace ourselves against winter’s icy chill, thank God for our many blessings, and pray that our careful preparations will see us through to spring. In the meantime, prepare the table, cherish friends, and enjoy the feast of life. 

CHRISTMAS

During the Christmas Season, I almost always feel a sense of urgency to pen a Christmas letter that captures like never before the essence of the season.  The written word has been around a long time.  The likelihood of mixing and matching words sufficiently as to arrive at something entirely new, innovative, and never before achieved in the long, celebrated history of the medium, is about as likely as discovering the one true Santa emerging from your hearth on Christmas morning.

For most of us, our most enchanting Christmas memories are from our youth. To fully experience the magic and majesty of Christmas, it’s almost essential to approach it with a childlike faith.  The older we get, the more difficult that becomes.  In order to recapture the true essence of Christmas, one must do it with a minimum of words, from the purest depths of our heart.

That’s my hope for each and every one of us this season, that the spirit of Christmas can purify, cleanse, and relieve us of our years of apprehension, disillusionment, and animosity, and allow us once more to experience the magical Christmas of our earliest memories; pure, simple, and unadulterated; a Christmas awash in the warmth, joy, and unconditional fellowship that comes of an innocent heart and a childlike faith.

Dear God, help us once more to approach, Christ, Christmas, and each other, with open arms, forgiving hearts, and the incorruptible innocence of our youth. In this age of cynicism, apathy and doubt, we hear many disparaging comments about Christmas.  People despair over its commercialism, the financial strain it tends to create for some, and the anxiety and depression it causes in others. We’re told of its origins in pagan tradition and how Christmas trees and Christmas gifts and all the traditional trappings of Christmas were swiped from various pagan cultures down through the ages. We’re told by wise and learned experts that it can be conclusively determined that Christ wasn’t even born in December.  What are we to think?  

I’ll tell you what I think.  I think that for myself and many others, our memories of Christmas past and our hopes for Christmas future may well be the very essence of what makes our lives worth living. For us, the spirit of Christmas and everything that the true meaning of Christmas embodies is a fundamental element in our faith, our happiness, our very existence, and everything we treasure in our lives.

It’s our memories of Christmas past that strengthen our resolve to keep Christmas vital and alive, and see to it that children for generations to come can experience the joy we knew on those cherished mornings long ago, when we gathered together with precious souls we miss with all our hearts, and shared the precious, incomparable gift of Christmas.

Christmas is a feeling in our chest, a sense of being sheltered and caressed, A memory that makes our spirit soar, an ache that leaves us somehow wanting more; bitter sweet recollections of a day, of innocence and faith and youthful play; scenes of family outings in the snow,  cherished mornings around a Christmas tree aglow, priceless memories of innocence we’ve known, before we ventured out in life alone; when each day found us carefree, safe and glad, and evening found us home with home with Mom and Dad. We strive today to recreate a time, when hope was strong and zest for life sublime, when childlike faith assured tomorrow’s joys, and needs were met with simple gifts and toys. Perhaps tomorrow’s hopes can best be met, by casting off our feelings of regret, and reaching out to others who still care, and comprehend the passion that we share; those who recognize that we’ve been blessed, and embrace that hopeful longing in our chest. 

FREE ADVICE & WORTH EVERY PENNY

The Bible indicates that, prior to His resurrection, Christ was a quiet, unassuming young man, who promised to intercede on our behalf, at our request, with the awesome, incomprehensible force that conceived of and holds sway over the entire universe and beyond, forever.  And all we need do in return is to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.  I intend to risk it.

Here’s some free advice, and worth every penny.  My folks always counseled me, use your own head and your own heart. Anytime you’re forced to choose between staying true to your own beliefs with a clear conscience, or going along to get along, you’re better served by keeping a clear conscience. Those around you will come and go and through time may change positions, but you and your conscience are together for the long haul. 

Regardless of what part of this pale blue orb we call home, we all have much in common.  No one chooses where, when, or under what circumstances we’re born.  We walk the path we’re given in the light we’re given. That’s why it’s never productive to judge others.  Some have a brightly lit and easy path, while others struggle all their life in darkness. Much of my life has been marvelously bright and blessed.  With that in mind, and for what if anything its worth, I’ll share a few thoughts on living a satisfying life.

First of all, set aside a bright roomy section of your mind and fill it with all our best memories.  Visit it often and be careful not to soil it. Keep it immaculate and it will serve you well. And always remember; in our darkest hour our brightest hope is faith.  Faith burns most brightly when all other hopes are spent.
Romans 3:22-23 22 “This righteousness is given through faith in[a] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Repent of your sins and be baptized.

Sharpen your awareness of the natural wonders that surround us and encourage it’s appreciation in others. Be cognizant of life’s cycles, appreciating each new season in turn, while realizing fully that, despite our best efforts, time is resolute and with time each season will pass. Embrace each new season with hope and optimism while retaining all that’s best of seasons past.

While we should never underestimate the potential for joy in the future, for most of us, there comes a time when our best hope for contentment is in reconciling ourselves to what is, and celebrating what was. 

If you’re blessed with family, visit them often, tell them you love them, and cherish every moment that you share.  Expressing love now can dispel a life of regrets.

Even if one believes in “the big bang”, we have to be curious about the awesome, incomprehensible force that created it. Regardless of what you believe about the origins of our remarkable planet, it falls to us to protect and preserve it. We are responsible for its stewardship.  We’ve been called to dress and keep it.

Be mindful of your example to others. It’s your most effective testimony.   Be open to affection but wary of unwholesome pleasures. Value truth and consider the cost of deceit. Do not be deceived. Deceit is ephemeral. Lies and indiscretions will eventually come to light. Every action has a consequence.  When considering any action, before proceeding, think the scenario through to its logical conclusion.  You can never undo a thoughtless deed and carelessly sewn seeds produce a ponderous harvest.

There are those who would have you believe that religious liberty means they are at liberty to dictate your beliefs. Truth be told, religious liberty means exactly the opposite. The first amendment to the United States Constitution protects our freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom to worship as we choose. It grants US citizens, the right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those who would deny us these liberties are misrepresenting our Constitution.
Cherish and reverently exercise your right to vote and keep this country free. Many people have given their lives in order to secure the freedoms you enjoy today.  Honor their sacrifice.  Honor our veterans and all those who choose a life of service. Confront ignorance and be diligent in the advancement of knowledge.  Ignorance and intolerance are almost inseparable and despite what some will tell you, neither one is a virtue. Positive outcomes are never achieved through negative actions. Respond to others as you’d have them respond to you. The essential ingredient in any accord is civility. 

Anything that you are unable to do in good conscience and moderation, do not do.  Eat nutritiously and judiciously, consistently burning more calories than you consume, until you’ve achieved your ideal weight and you’ll be healthier, more industrious, more prosperous, more popular, profoundly gratified and gut wrenchingly contented.  It’s what all the ages have striven for.

Most of us pursue happiness through an all consuming quest to attain one thing that others will covet.  That’s our nature, inherent in our robes of flesh.  We seek to validate who we are, by piling up possessions. That one thing may be a grandiose house, a pretentious spouse, or all variety of shiny, superfluous possessions. Failing in this pursuit, our happiness remains elusive. Even when we’re successful, our satisfaction is generally fleeting.  If your goal is happiness, make that one thing an optimistic attitude.  Invest in a winning attitude and earn dividends with every smile. If you can develop an attitude that others will admire, success is certain and happiness guaranteed.

In all things, promote liberty for all and justice tempered with mercy.  In this country, everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Celebrate ethnicity; take pride in your heritage, but value the traditions of others.  Our country’s greatest strength is diversity. Honor diversity and keep America strong. Remember always that you are as good as any and better than none. Be just, merciful, humble, and be happy.

SHANNON THOMAS CASEBEER
















Friday, November 24, 2017

Season’s Greetings, Fellow Earthlings


Each and every day, each and every one of us, regardless of our circumstances, has a choice. We can squander our time fingering old welts, second guessing past decisions, and tormenting ourselves over the poor choices of others; or we can embrace a new day brimming with opportunities for doing justly, loving mercy, and building foundations for a bright new tomorrow. Time is precious. Choose wisely. SC

Thursday, November 23, 2017

HAPPY THANKSGIVING


HISTORIC HANGTOWN CRICK

It was many and many a year ago
Along an old stagecoach road,
A gold camp flourished in the snow,
In the heart of the mother lode.

Soon the whole place went to heck,
And loath to call a truce,
They stretched a couple careless necks
With a crudely fashioned noose.

So the gold camp grew in infamy.
Notoriety done the trick!
And soon the little ditch was known
As historic Hangtown crick.

The camp was christened Hangtown too,
In memory of the dead,         
And far and wide her legend grew
As the lawless place them fellas wound up dead.

Soon folks rushed in from shore to shore
To pan the muddy street,
With Hangtown renowned for evermore
As the place to come to see them swingin’ feet.

The city fathers deemed it wise
To spread the gold camp’s fame.
Soon gold aplenty became the prize,
And emptying tourists pockets became the game.

When delicate womenfolk arrived,
The name Hangtown give ‘em grief.
So a brand new name was soon contrived,
In the hope it might provide the men relief.

Ravine City was considered
But the womenfolk groaned still,
So at last the city fathers
Changed the name to Placerville.

The little metropolis grew and grew
And the townsfolk, being thrifty,
Began providing gasoline
To the motorists they could lure from highway 50.

Flatlanders now are welcome
Despite what you may hear.
And we very rarely hang one.
With ropes now coiled, we count each tourist dear.

So if you’d like to live on beans
Out west where skies are sunny,
Check out Old Hangtown by all means,
And just to play it safe, bring lots of money.
SC

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

SOMETIMES IN THE EVENING


SOMETIMES IN THE EVENING

Sometimes in the evening
When the sun is sinking low,
And the pines are silhouetted
And I’ve nowhere else to go,
I remember good ol’ Placerville
In the distant days of yore,
And I’d very nearly sell my soul
To walk its streets once more.
When its avenues were dusty
And its storefronts weathered wood,
When the girls were thin and lusty
And the Ivy House still stood;
When Main Street ran a rutted course
And blooms were yet a bud,
The only ride to town, a horse,
And gold was in our blood;
When the Hangman’s Tree served nickel beer,
The Cary House was new;
Lamp-lit saloons exuded cheer
And frosty mugs of brew,
The three mile house was always full,
Lake Tahoe days away,
And folks who stopped at Hangtown
Almost always came to stay.
Father in Heaven, hear my prayer.
Dear God, please grant my plea.
If I could just awaken there.
If time could set me free.
If once more I could stroll its streets
And once more breathe it’s air,
I know there’s souls aplenty Lord
Who could benefit from prayer. SC

TATTERED STARS


TATTERED STARS

Her stripes were worn and faded,
Her fabric torn and frayed.
Tattered stars hung loosely now,
Weakened by old battles and decayed.

Still, she hung with dignity,
Despite her ragged state.
Her very fabric promised hope,
Although the hour was late.

Just then, as dawn was breaking,
A rustling in the trees,
A disturbance in the morning mist
And a cool, refreshing of breeze.

The flash of nearby lightening,
Pulses quickened by the thrill,
While meadows shook with thunder
And a deluge took the hill.

With that, Old Glory caught the wind,
Unfurled, as on the march.
Despite the hail that tore her hems,
She took the field and stretched out stiff as starch.

And those who saw this marveled,
And recalled old glory’s youth.
And hearts swelled near to bursting,
Quickened by old loyalties and truth.

And every soul saluted,
While new hope replaced old fears,
And each heart pledged allegiance,
And sealed their pledge with gratitude and tears.
 
SHANNON THOMAS CASEBEER


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Mourning in America


Let us remember on this upcoming Veteran’s Day that our Star Spangled Banner is emblematic of our Union and all those who have fought to preserve it.  Its ubiquitous presence symbolizes a time-honored celebration of our pride, our history, and our heritage as American citizens.  Above all, it is symbolic of our unity. The stars on Old Glory represent our united states and our dedication and allegiance to our American flag and the principles of liberty and justice for which it stands. As we celebrate that unity and all those who have given their lives to defend it, we should be keenly aware that it falls to each of us to reinforce and strengthen those bonds of kinship, not despite our differences, but because of them. Take pride in your heritage, but value the traditions of others. Our greatest strength is our diversity.  Honor diversity and keep America strong.

During prolonged seasons of despair and discouragement, it’s helpful to remember that, surely as darkness must invariably give way to light and winter inevitably to spring; goodness, justice, and enlightenment will inexorably prevail over greed, apathy and ignorance. Ice will thaw; snow will melt, and spring will once more triumph with the warmth and resilience that invariably follow winter. It’s time to step out in faith, recognizing and sharing our many blessings, lifting up those who’ve fallen, encouraging those who strive to move us forward, and raising the torch of Liberty to light the way to a brighter, more prosperous future.

Our goal in America is not now and has never been, a society in which we are each fundamentally alike and in perfect agreement. The hope has always been that, through a democratic government and its resulting system of justice, we would honor each other’s personal freedoms and peacefully coexist. The goal has always been an extraordinarily diverse but generally harmonious union.  This, even in the midst of today’s deliberately polarized dissension, is achievable, through civility, compassion, rational dialogue and the joint pursuit of the time-honored goal of our Constitution: the mutually beneficial amalgamation of all our diverse populace and their beliefs, into one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. SC